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The Good And Bad Of Roosevelt's New Deal

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The Good and Bad of Roosevelt's New Deal

The era of the Great Depression was by far the worst shape the United States had ever been in, both economically and physically. Franklin Roosevelt was elected in 1932 and began to bring relief with his New Deal. In his first 100 days as President, sixteen pieces of legislation were passed by Congress, the most to be passed in a short amount of time. Roosevelt was re-elected twice, and quickly gained the trust of the American people. Many of the New Deal policies helped the United States economy greatly, but some did not. One particularly contradictory act was the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which was later declared unconstitutional by Congress. Many things also stayed very consistent in the New Deal. For example, the Civilian Conservation Corps, and Social Security, since Americans were looking for any help they could get, these acts weren't seen as a detrimental at first. Overall, Roosevelt's New Deal was a success, but it also hit its stumbling points.

One of the most contradictory efforts of the New Deal was the Agricultural Adjustment Act. Through the AAA, Roosevelt proposed to pay farmers for cutting back on production or producing nothing at all. It was supposed to help increase farm prices by decreasing the supply. Now, the government had to deal with the existing surplus. The Roosevelt administration decided to destroy much of what had been already been produced, as to create a shortage so farm prices would increase. About six million pigs were slaughtered and ten million acres of cotton were destroyed. Secretary of Agriculture Henry Wallace described the wholesale destruction of crops and livestock as "a cleaning up of the wreckage from the old days of unbalanced production."

Shortly after the Agricultural Administration Act was established, the Department of Agriculture released its research on the American diet during the last few years. It found that it was not producing enough food to sustain its population on a subsistence diet. In 1936, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics reported that in the case of cotton, farm income would have been at least as high, if not higher in the absence of Roosevelt's AAA. In retrospect, farmers found themselves worse off because the National Recovery Administration had been very successful in forcing up prices that consumers, including farmers had to pay for manufactured goods. Unfortunately, massive government intervention in agriculture never went away.

Another one of the New Deal's contradictory reforms was the National Industrial Recovery Act. The principle was to establish minimum wages and prices and general labor regulations. On one hand, it sought to keep wage rates high and give the consumer greater purchasing power. On the other hand, it established hundreds of legally sanctioned industry-wide cartels that were allowed to establish standard wages, hours of operation and minimum prices on their own terms. The minimum prices meant that businesses would be prevented from underselling each other. The artificially high wages also meant that unemployment would continue to rise. High prices for goods were not the right path to take since the United States economy was in the biggest depression it had ever seen. In 1935, the Supreme Court declared the NRA unconstitutional, on the grounds that the United States government had no right to regulate intrastate commerce, since it was a power usually granted to state governments. To replace parts of the NRA, Congress passed the National Labor Relations Board and the Rural Electrification Act in 1935. The National Labor Relations Board affirmed labor's rights to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choice, or to refrain from those activities. It would determine proper bargaining units, conduct elections for union representation and investigate charges of unfair labor practices. The Rural Electrification Act was imposed to administer load programs for electrification and telephone services in rural areas. Another roadblock for the New Deal came in 1937 when Congress declared the National Labor Relations Board unconstitutional.

Although the New Deal had some setbacks, and some programs did more harm than good, there was also a fair amount of productivity from the New Deal. For instance, the Civilian Conservation Corps still



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